BOSTON – A jury has ruled the Lorillard Tobacco Co. tried to entice black children to become smokers by handing out free cigarettes and has awarded $71 million in compensatory damages to the estate and son of a woman who died of lung cancer. The Suffolk Superior Court jury announced its verdict Tuesday.

Willie Evans alleged Lorillard introduced his mother, Marie Evans, to smoking as a child in the 1950s by giving her free Newport cigarettes at the Orchard Park housing project in Boston, where she lived. He said his mother smoked for more than 40 years before dying of lung cancer at age 54.

During the trial, a lawyer for Lorillard, which is based in Greensboro, N.C., said that like many other cigarette companies it gave away free samples decades ago to adults in an attempt to get them to switch brands. But the company insisted it did not give cigarettes to children and called the allegation that it intentionally gave samples to black children “disturbing.”

The company’s lawyer also said Evans made the decision to start smoking and continued to smoke even after she suffered a heart attack in 1985 and her doctors repeatedly urged her to quit.